Restaurant Etiquette: Getting the Waiter's Attention

Etiquette demands that you summon a waiter as subtly as possible.
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Dining out puts our meal etiquette on display, particularly since we so often share the occasion with special dates, business colleagues and other people we wish to impress. Restaurant etiquette does not differ significantly from good manners at home, despite the sometimes intimidating setting, but it can pose special challenges. One such challenge is the need to summon a waiter to place or amend an order, clear plates or provide other table services. The key to getting a waiter’s attention is polite discretion.

1 The Subtler the Better

The best way to attract the waiter’s attention is eye contact. An attentive server should be glancing at his tables regularly to check on diners, and when he does so, catch his eye, perhaps nodding or raising your eyebrows. Failing that, try raising your finger, advises Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick of The Etiquette School of New York. At all costs, avoid anything “dramatic or brash,” warns Seema Gupta in her etiquette guide. You do not want to draw other diners’ attention to your table, and you should not interrupt the waiter as he helps others. If, however, you suspect that the waiter is deliberately avoiding your attempts, go speak to the manager and politely explain that you are waiting for service.

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.